By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer
The law of averages says an Oklahoma City Thunder starter will make a 3-pointer relatively quickly on Monday night.
Someone better, or else.
Houston — which famously wasted a chance to reach the NBA Finals by missing 27 consecutive 3-pointers in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference finals — is a game away from the second round of these playoffs, after watching the Thunder suddenly forget how to shoot on Saturday night. The Rockets will take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 against the Thunder in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Monday night.
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“We’ll go back to the drawing board, see what we did well, see what we didn’t do well,” Thunder guard Chris Paul said.
Houston rolled in Game 5, winning 114-80 on a night where the Thunder missed 14 consecutive 3-pointers in one 19-minute stretch during which the Rockets outscored them 55-25 — basically the entire winning margin.
Thunder starters combined to miss their last 17 attempts from 3-point range and combined for the full game, Oklahoma City’s first-stringers were 1 for 21 from beyond the arc — the worst performance by any starting unit that tried at least 20 3s in a game since Portland went 1 for 21 at New York on Nov. 13, 2001.
“We’re connected, we’re very aware,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon said Sunday. “A team like OKC, they’re a really good team and people don’t give them enough credit. … Our main thing is to stay in front of them and make them take contested shots.”
Controlling emotions could be a challenge for both sides in Game 6. Dennis Schroder led the Thunder with 19 points in Game 5 — 18 in the second quarter, when Oklahoma City had its only lead of the night. But he was ejected midway through the third for hitting Houston’s P.J. Tucker in the midsection; Tucker also was ejected after retaliating with a head-butt.
Schroder was fined $25,000 Sunday for making the contact to the groin area; Tucker was fined $25,000 for escalating the incident. Both will be available to play in Game 6.
If the Rockets win Monday, they would play Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. The Lakers advanced by ousting the Portland Trail Blazers in five games, finishing that series off with a win on Saturday night.
The other game on Monday is Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat.
A look at Game 6 of the Houston-Oklahoma City series:
ROCKETS VS. THUNDER
Houston leads 3-2. Game 6, 9 p.m. EDT, TNT.